- Iraq's oil exports hit their lowest level since the war, according to figures released on Monday, heightening a sense of crisis as fuel supplies grow scarce and political leaders struggle to form a government.
Iraq exported 1.1 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil in December, a senior official said -- less than any month since exports resumed in mid-2003 after the U.S. invasion and about half the level seen during sanctions under Saddam Hussein.
Sabotage is damaging plants and blocking investment, keeping exports at a fraction of targets officials say should be met if Iraq's vast reserves are to provide its people with the prosperity that might draw the sting of civil conflict.
The oil official was speaking after Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Uloum announced his resignation in opposition to fuel price rises imposed last month as part of an aid deal with the International Monetary Fund that demands big cuts in subsidies.
The price rises have been unpopular among Iraqis, already struggling with poor basic public services and appalling violence on their streets.
Fuel riots and more than a dozen car bombs greeted the New Year in Iraq as relatives celebrated the release of one Cypriot, one Lebanese and five Sudanese hostages by their captors.
At least 40 people were wounded in the wave of bombings, which struck the tense northern oil city of Kirkuk and towns just north of the capital as well as Baghdad itself, security officials said.